Excerpts from newspapers and other
From the files of the
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection
-7 / _2J>0°/ <J&ST03r»2-
See also files titled "Abraham Lincoln and Religion"
ABRAHAM LINCOLN was born in ISO!).
** That is one hundred and eleven years
ago, and it takes us back to within ten
years of the death of George Washington.
So it was that the lives of these illustrious
statesmen spanned the greater part of the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Wash-
ington never knew Lincoln, of course, but
his influence upon Lincoln was very great.
V * *
There is a charming little story of a
backwoods boy, dressed in homespun, with
deerskin leggings, a eoonskin cap upon his
head, and clumsy moccasins of bearskin on
his feet, hurrying across the fields to his
home clutching something very precious
in his hand. This was a book — a real
, printed book — a book that told about real
people and the big world. A neighbor had
told the boy that he would lend him this
book and that he might take it home and
read it. Little Abe's heart beat fast. It
was almost too good to be true.
It is a pathetic story: the eagerness of the
starving mind of the frontier child; the long
day's work that summoned him with the
morning light and prevented him from
reading his beloved book; the hours stolen
from sleep; the precious volume hidden
away in a crevice between the logs of his
cabin; the snow-storm that came in the
night, covering his little bed with its white
blanket and soaking the book from cover to
cover; the sorrowful journey to the house
of the neighbor and the sad story of the
injury; the three days' toil in the cornfield
to pay for the book, and the happiness at
the end of that period that drove away all
thoughts of his own aches and weariness
in the acquisition of that wonderful book to
be his very own.
This book was the life of George Washing-
ton, by Parson Wccms. There are multi-
tudes of stories about the influence of
books upon bojs and girls, and this is one
of the best of them all. Long years after-
ward, when the little boy with the honest
blue eyes had come to be President of the
United States, he told this story of his
first book and said: "That book, the life
of George Washington, helped to make me
president of the United States."
1 So Lincoln's life was the sequence of
" Washington's, moral as well as temporal.
" It is another case of Elijah's mantle falling
' upon Elisha.
V *• *
These great men were different in many
ways. Waslungton was the gift of wealth
to his country; Lincoln was the gift of
poverty. Washington's family owned a
large estate; Lincoln's father sold his little
scrubby farm in Kentucky for a few dollars
and started down the Ohio River in a flat-
boat for his new home in Spencer County,
Indiana. The boat struck a snag, the house-
hold goods slid into the muddy stream, and
the Lincoln family was left penniless.
Dr. Hallock tells us that when Washing-
ton was elected president he was called the
richest man in the United States; Lincoln
was hard up for money all his life. Wash-
ington wore silk stockings; Lincoln never
had a pair of stockings on his feet until
he was grown. Washington wore costly
shoes with silver buckles; Lincoln wore
shoes only in snow time, and those were
rude ones made by his father's hands.
Washington was clothed literally in purpl e
profoundly religious men. Their broad
philanthropy and intense patriotism were
the outgrowth of their faith in God and
their knowledge of his inspired Word.
Captain Gilbert J Greene, who was a
life-long friend of Lincoln, was Onco asked
by Dr. Iglchart concerning Lincoln's re-
ligious life. To this he bore strong testi-
mony. He said that to his certain knowl-
edge Lincoln was a faithful student of
the Bible. There was a copy of the New
Testament which constantly lay on his
table. Its flexible cover was worn almost
through by the rail-splitter's fingers. Mr.
Greene said that Lincoln once recited to
him Christ's Sermon on the Mount through-
out without making a mistake. He told
him that he considered Paul's sermon on
Mars' Hill the ablest and most eloquent
literary production ever spoken by mortal
lips or recorded by human hand.
*• * *»
One day Lincoln said to him, "Gilbert,
there is a woman dangerously sick, living
fifteen miles out in the country, who has
sent for me to come and write her will.
I should like to have you go along with
me; I would enjoy your company and the
trip would be a little recreation for you."
Mr. Greene cheerfully accepted the in-
vitation. They found the woman worse
than they expected. She evidently had
only a few hours to live. When Lincoln
had written the will and it had been signed
and witnessed, the woman said to him:
"Now I have my affairs for this world
arranged satisfactorily. I am thankfid
to say that long before this I have made
preparation for the other life I am so soon
to enter. I sought and found Christ as
my Saviour, who has been my stay and
comfort through the years, and who is
now near 1 to carry me over the river of
death. I'do not fear death."
Lincoln said to her: "Your faith in Christ
is wise and strong, your hope of a future
life is blessed. You are to be congratulated
on passing through this life so usefully
and into the future so happily."
have my heart."
A tall pioneer in buckskin stood in the
doorway. He saw the shadow of death in
the cabin, but he wished to cheer his wife,
and he said: "But he can't sing, Nancy."
This was triif\ The mother was a sweet
singer. She replied feebly: "The heart
sings in many ways. Some hearts make
other hearts sing. Abraham may not
have my voice, but he has my heart
and he may make others sing. 1 am tioing
The pioneer and the boy watched her.
She moved slightly from time to time.
Nervously her fingers twitched the cover-
lid. Once she opened her eyes. "Abraham!"
she said softly, "My Abraham!" Once she
tried to lift herself to see him. Then she
trembled and lay still.
"She is gone, Abra'm," said Thomas
Father and son made her coffin with
their own hands and buried her under the
trees. It was a rude grave when it was
finished. But since then, the people of
Indiana have honored the memorj- of its
occupant. A monument lifts its marble
whiteness toward the sky, and pilgrims
kneel at its base with prayers and thanks-
giving. But long before her motherhood
became sacred to the great Nation, a ragged,
hatless boy sat on the grass-green mound
and dreamed and listened in memory to
the songs she had sung.
* V *•
In the dying testimony of Lincoln's
mother we have the answer to our question:
"Abraham Lincoln, you have my heart."
What his friends observed Lincoln con-
firmed many a time with his own testi-
mony. It was the heart of his mother that
inspired him all through his life. In the
crises of the Civil War, when he had to
sustain and to direct the fortunes of this
great nation, it was his mother's faith that
made his own and that strengthened him
for his superhuman task.
When the war was over and the great
victory was won, there were great crowds
She >asfcejd him if .he^ovould read a fcw^^PJ^ysdiog. the_ President one day nt the
verses out! of the Bible to her. They* offered
the book to him; he did not take it, but
began to recite from memory the twenty-
third Psalm. Then, without the book, he
took up the first part of the fourteenth of
John. After he had given these and other
quotations from the Scriptures he recited
several hymns, closing with "Rock of Ages,
cleft for me."
Mr. Greene says about the incident: "I
thought at the time I never heard any elo-
cutionist speak with such ease and power
as he did. I am an old man now, but my
heart melts as it did then in that death
chamber when I remember how, with al-
White Housed There were shouting multi-
tudes all over the green lawn and the broad
avenues. Old Glory rippled in the breeze,
and far away the cannon of victory shook
the hills and echoed over the broad river.
Lincoln looked out upon the sea of hu-
manity. The multitude hushed their
cheering. His first words were:
"I sinccrel}- thank God for the occasion
of this call."
None but he heard in these words the
tones of that mother who was looking on
him from the home of the angels. It was
the same tono that he had heard so often
in the shack cabin beneath the flaming
most divine pathos, he spoke the last jnaples.
stanza. A little while after, the woman> -.
passed to her reward. As we rode home in 'I'ju
the buggy I expressed surprise that he
should have acted the pastor as well as the
attorney so perfectly, and Lincoln replied:
"God and eternity were very near me to-
V * *
Abraham Lincoln's faith in God is the
faith that saved this nation in the dark
hours of the Civil War. There is a great
lesson in this for the rulers of our own day,
and for us all, as we wonder in the midst of
_oiir_coi]nt.rv'K- t.rouhlps_tuhi\t>.ht\j>n/l-iinILKf» _
KiiNSAS CITY STAH
February 10, 1922
^nToln » F»itor ■ Subject.
•The Religion of Abraham Lincoln
Was He Atheist or Christian? will °e
the subject of an address by the Rev.
L. M. Birkhead at All Souls Unitarian!
church. 3425 Baltimore avenue, Sunday .
Publishqd bonthly sincf* 1928
&4qS Medford Street, LcsAngeLos, California
Defending Those Principles For Which Lincoln Stood
"Take all the Bible upon reason that you can, and the balance
on faith and you will live and die a better man. 7 ' Lincoln
We s "iould adhere strictly to that American principle, of sep-'
aration of church and state. V/hile sectarianism should be kept
out of all of our public institutions;, the 'Bible should not be ex-
cluded from any.... The Caliicrnie Constitution properly prohibits
sectarian literature i. p the public school library or the teaching
of sectarianism., directly or indirectly in the classroom.
Those who opposed "Bible reeding m the public school £
that if they could get same court to rule that the Xing ' J-c-m
was a sectarian book, that their victory wbuTd be wen. Ace
in 1922 they got on App'eliate Court to so rule and for two
the Bible was outlawed from both the public school libjfcry
room. In 1924 the Trustees of the Sclira IJ\aion High School
(Fresno' County) going against chat appellate court ruling r
against the advise of the Attorney General, cr^rod. the' pur
of twelve King -Turtles EibJ.es for the school library. The ca
appealed to the State fupremo Court which, God bless them,
down this favorable ruling, "For reference, and library pur
the public sc.'iools, the Bible in the King Jamc-s version i_s
book of the cluss prohibited, by the statutes." As regards
reading in. the class room, the Honorable Court specifically
'We are not required in this case to decide."
Former Attorney General U. S. Webb gave as his opinion, that
the Supreme Court, in its ruling, limited the Bible for Library pur*-
In the event of a test case we are confident that the Honorable
Court .would again come to the aid of the, Bible. In fact there arc
some school districts in. California in which the Bible is road
more or less.
In Oceansido, (whore each class room is provided with a King
James Bible ) ? a goodly majority of the voters interviewed have sign-
ed the petit] on, addressee! to the legislature, seeking a state law
to place a King James Bible in every public .school librrry, put on
the teacher's desk, a book cf suitable scripture portirns, from
which the teacher Shall read wit brut comment,, to the pupils at
the opening of every school d'5y,''" T rni's is known as the Lincoln Plan
for Bible Reading in the Public Schools. ' ' i
The Rirlto sebcol districts r&optefl this vlvn in 1930. Af3 there
is no law to the contrary the Trustees at the Oce<-nside Elementary
schools h^ve been asked by b local "Bible in the School Committee",
to supplement the Bibles already in the classrooms with o Scrip-
ture book, as a reading quide for the teacher. If the Trustees
deem it unwise to require the teacher to read the prescribed Script-
ure portions, they might give permission so to read.
LINCOLN AND T T TE SABBATH
On November 15, 1862, President Lincoln shows his deepening
N, rB5Ligious o.onvlution, and his comprehensive faith in the fact that
God rules in the affairs of nations as well as of individuals, by
his famous "Sunday Rest Order".
The President, Commander-inChief of the Army and Navy, de-
sires and enjoins the orderly observance of the SabbatA by the off-
icers and men in the military and naval service. The j importance
for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the $acred rights
of Christian soldiers and sailors , a becoming deference to the best
sentiments of a Christian people , and a due regard far the Divine
"/ill, demand that Sunday Labor in the army and navy be reduced to
the measure of strict necessity.
The discipline and character of the national forces should not
suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperiled by the profana-
tion of the day or name of the Most High. "At this time of public
distress"--adopting the words of Washington in 1776 — "men may find
enough to do in the service of God and their Country Without
abandoning them-selves to vice and immorality." The first general
order issued by the Father of his Country, indicates the spirit in
which our institutions were founded and should ever be defended;
"The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endea-
vor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the
dearest rights and liberties of his country."
Truly this is a Christian Nation constitutionally.
Second National Fast-Day as follows in part:
March 30, 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation
appointing another national fast-day. It reads like the deliver-
ance of one of the ancient prophets, as follows:
And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own
their dependence upon the overruling power of God: to confess
their, sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with asaured
hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon: and to
recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures .and
proven by all iiistory, that those notions only a^fre blessed vhose
God is the Lord: ■ )
E. F. Rudeen
Leader of People
BY DAN L. THRAPP
Times Religion Editor
Abraham Lincoln, proba-
bly a§ deeply spiritual in
word and spirit as any White
House resident, although he
may never have professed
himself a Christian, will bej
honored in a number of
Southland services tomor-
Church's weekly bulletin even
drew on Comedian George
Gobel for a phrase in estima-
tion of the Great Emancipa-
"You can't hardly get them
kind no more," it said this
week, in a paragraph penned
by Atty. Melvin MacKinnon,
president of the congrega-
tion's Men's Council. Many a
churchman would agree.
Although there is no proof
that Lincoln joined any
church, he regularly attended
services at the New York Ave.
Presbyterian Church of Wash-
ington, D.C., and the Rev.
Phineas T. Gurley, its minis-
ter, was his close friend and
More church news on
Page 22, Part II.
He was at the President's 1
bedside when he died and of-
fered prayer, later conducting
funeral services for the mar-
tyred executive at the White
In 1850, Mr. and Mrs. Lin-
coln took a pew in First Pres-
byterian Church of Spring-
field, 111., and occupied it fre-
quently until they went to
Washington for the first inau
The State Library of Illi-
nois, at Springfield, has rec-
ords of First Church, showing
Mrs. Lincoln's membership,
Tad Lincoln's' baptism and
Mr. Lincoln's serving on a
church committee to purchase
It would seem, therefore,
that Lincoln's inclination was
toward Presbyterianism, al-
though his spiritual feeling
was probably completely in-
terdenominational, or nonde-
A minister in a delegation
meeting with the President
once hoped, it is said, that the
Lord be "on our side."
"I don't agree .with you,"
"I'm not at all concerned
about that, for we know that
the Lord is always on the side
of the right. But it is my con-
stant anxiety"and prayer that
I and this nation should be
on the Lord's side." '
Some interest attaches,
therefore, to a statement sent
in by a reader. -It appeared in
the Canton (0.) Christian, a
Church of Christ publication,
some time ago, alleging that
the President was baptized in
The paper was edited and
published by the late Pearl H.
Welshimer of Canton. He was
pastor for 50 years of a 6000-
member church and held a
number of high- denomina-
tional positions before his
death a few years ago.
A story said that "in 1862,
W. H. Morris, a minister of
the Christian Church, was sta- J
tioned with his regiment in!
Arlington Heights across the 1
river from Washington. Dur-
ing this time Mr. Morris held
a protracted meeting of about
two weeks during which he
baptized many of the men in
"Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stan-
ton attended his meetings
nearly every night. Near the
close of the meeting, Mr. Lin-
coln came to him and said,
'Morris, do you think it is I
necessary for every person to
be baptized?' The minister re-
plied, 'It is not a matter of
"think so" with me. It is a
matter of revelation.'
"He then proceeded to
quote Scripture references at
the conclusion of which Mr.
Lincoln said, 'Well, Morris, I
look at this matter just as you
do and I intend to attend to
Mrs. Lincoln, however, ac-
cording to the article, "flew
into a tantrum," and nothing
was dona about it at the time.
"Later on John O'Kane (he
later was State evangelist in
Indiana) actually baptized
Lincoln," the article contin-
Cried All Night
"As Mr. O'Kane told it, 'On
i the night before Lincoln was
to be baptized, his wife cried
all night. The matter was de-
ferred, as she thought, but
soon after Lincoln and I took
a buggy ride. I baptized him
in a creek near Springfield.
" 'We changed into dry '
clothing and returned to the
city and, by his request, Ii
placed his name on the church
book. He lived and died a|
member of the Church of
Supporting evidence for
this account is lacking.
In commenting on the gen-
erally accepted belief that
Lincoln never joined any
church, the Rev. Emerald L.
Olson of the Manhattan Beach
Community Church said that
the President remained out-
side organized religion be-
cause he could not find a
church to meet his require-
He will preach on "The
Church Lincoln Would Have
Joined" at 9:30 and 11 a.m.
God and Lincoln
The Rev. S. Mark Hogue
will speak on "God and Lin-
coln" at 9:15 and 10:30 a.m.
services at the Westwood
Hills Congregational Church,
1989 Westwood Blvd., West-
The traditional Lincoln Dav
program at the Spanish-
American Institute, 15840 S
Figueroa St., Gardena, today
will feature a morning ad-
dress by Dr. Melvin E.
Wheatley, pastor of West-
wood Community Methodist
Church, and an afternoon or-
atorical contest. Box lunches
will be sold and the public is i
The Evening Sun Baltimore, Maryland
February 10, 1962
L .'5°' n ^ as , Migious, Superstitious
i..-,-.., _ _ . . scriptures; and I have never tnU u-„ r.u.-— » _ t .
By JULES LOH
[Associated Press Writer]
In 1846 there was a religious
issue in an election campaign.
Somebody claimed the candi-
date for the House of Represent-
atives from Springfield, Ill.-Abra-
ham Lincoln— was "an infidel."
"That I am not a member of
any Christian church is true," re-
plied Abe, honestly, "but I'have
never denied the truth of the
Scriptures: and I have never
spoken with intentional disrespect
of religion in general or of any
denomination of Christians in par-
Lincoln Won the election. But
three years earlier it had been a
different story. He had tried for
the Whig party nomination with-
out success, and laid at least part
of the blame to religious intol-
Suspected Of Being Deist
"It was everywhere contended,"
he wrote, "that no Christian ought
to go for me because I belonged
to no church, was suspected of
being a deist, and had talked
about fighting a duel."
Much has been written about
Lincoln's religious beliefs, and as
his birthday rolls around each
year a popular pastime in some
quarters is to try to figure out
what denomination he belonged to.
His own words, however, pro-
vided the best insight regarding
the innermost feelings of this
deeply religious man.
Told Cabinet Of Dream
He admitted to be being super*
stitious. In 1841 he wrote to his
friend. Joshua F. Speed, of Louis-
ville: "I was always superstitious.
I bebeve God made me one of
the instruments for bringing your
(wife) and you together, which
union I have no doubt he fore-
And the day before his death he,
^ h J S u C f bi , net 8bout a dr eam
he had had the night before- the
same dream he said he ' had
dreamt immediately before all the
great events of the war,
But Lincoln also had a strong
reliance on prayer.
"I went to my room and got
down on my knees in prayer " he
said shortly after the Battle of
Gettysburg. "Never before had I
prayed with such earnestness. I
felt that I must put all my trust
m Almighty God. . . . I pra yed
that he would not let the nation
And on the Bible:
"Take all of this Book upon rea-
son that you can. and the balance
on faith," he wrote to Speed in
1864, "and you will live and die a
happier and better man."
Faith In Providence
And a profound faith in Divine
"If, after endeavoring to do my
best in the light which (God) af-
fords me, I find my efforts fail,"
he wrote in 1862, "I must believe
that for some purpose unknown to
me He wills it otherwise."
Again, shortly before his death
"The will of God prevails. In
great contests each party claims
to act in accordance with the will
of God. Both may be, and one
must be, wrong.
"God cannot be for and against
the same thing at the same time
in the present Civil War it is
quite possible that God's purpose
is something different from the
purpose of either party; an d vet
the human instrumentalities
working just as they do, are the
best adaptations to effect his pur-
"This Is Probably True"
"I am almost readv to say that
this is probably true; that God
wills this contest and wills that
it shall not end yet He could
give the final victory to either
side any day. Yet the content
Perhaps the most revealing dec-
laration of Lincoln's religious
attitude was summed up in the
latter part of his life when he
said: "I have never united my-
self to any church because I
have found difficulty in giving
my assent ... to the long com-
plicated statements of Christian
doctrine which characterize their
articles of belief.
"When any church will inscribe
over its altar, as its sole qualifi-
cation for membership, the Mas-
ter's condensed statement of the
substance of both law and gospel
'Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thy heart and with
all thy soul and with all thy
mind, and thy neighbor as thy-
self' that church will I join with
all my heart and with all my
' - '
Cleveland Plain Dealer fiapazino
; ■■>' . ■'.
Is Abe Lincoln
still in the
By, Al ten Spraggett
♦ Does the ghost of Abraham Lin-
coln still walk the halls of the White
House?' , ; . ..'■'.';.' '<■/: ■' ■■;}. '; ; : ..:' r
This questiph came up in a con-
versation I had in Washington with a
senator who shares my interest in
psych i c p h enom'e n a,
The senator said that there have
been those in recent years who
reported seeing Mr. Lincoln prowl-
ing his old haunts, as it were.
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of
F.D.R., was one of those who took
such reports seriously. As a matter of
fact, she had her own theory of what
a jhaunting was and it agreed with
the views held by many scientists
who have studied the phenomenon.
' ! Mrs; Roosevelt believed that/ as
she put it/ any place where someone
had lived hard would quite likely be
Haunted by that individual's person-
ality. •; ,., ; : j '■):/?•
study psychic phenomena— believe
that, a house can retain impressions
of those who have lived in it, long
after the occupants are dead. This is
particularly true if the occupant had
a powerful personality; and even
more so, if the dwelling was the
scene . of strong emotionalism ,or
tragic events. ; ■
This theory may account for the •
numerous reported sightings of the
ghost of Abraham Lincoln in the
White House. Certainly he had a
powerful personality. And certainly
he experienced tragedy, as well as
triumph, in the executive mansion.
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt told the
"I was sitting in my study down-
stairs when one of the majds burst in
on me in a state of great excitement.
I looked up from my work and asked
her what the trouble was." ,
'^'He's up there-fitting on the
edge of the bed and taking off his
shoes/ she exclaimed. i ,'■■ " „'
"Who's up >..th'eF-e.-.ytakihg off his'
shoes?" I asked.';, &&<£;*' & •'■'•'■'.. '%.'■
" 'Mr. Lincoln, Mr 'Lincoln/ the
maid replied." V V ;
Mrs. Roosevelt said she had al-
ways felt that Lincoln's bedroom was
haunted by what she called a serene
and dignified presence, ■
One more example of the Unex-
plained! . ; ':;- ; '■'■/hi i '%^.'4-¥\?k'
; L' ■-. ; .' Toronto Sun j>
Lincoln Ghost Reported Haunm^ Whste House
Something is keeping the
ghost of Abe Lincoln restless.
Reported sights of his ghost In
the White House are Increasing.
Some reports claim the ghost'
prowls the second floor of the
White House near the historic
Lincoln bedroom. Over the
years, this is the one area
where the ghost has been seen
When Franklin Roosevelt
occupied the White House, his
wife's servant, Mary Eban,.
insisted that she'd seen Lincoln
sitting in the northwest
bedroom pulling on his boots.
Various other servants also
claimed they saw the ghost
lying in his bed or standing
quietly at the oval window
above the main White House
entrance. Mrs'. Roosevelt even
said that altho she never actual- .
ly saw Lincoln, she did feel a
ghostly kind of "presence"
sometimes, while working late
The valet of FDR reported
that paintings would fall off the
wall whenever someone con-
nected with the White House
Even Harry Truman
acknowledged the Lincoln
ghost in his 1945 book, Mr. Pre-
sident: "My daughter and her
two pals were sleeping in Lin-
coln's bed tonight. If I were not
afraid it would scare them too
badly, I would have Lincoln
appear. The maids and butlers
swear he has appeared on sev-
eral occasions. It is said that
even Mrs. Coolidge saw him."
Truman could possibly have
aeen implying by this that he'
considered arranging for the
jhost to appear — as a joke.
A few years ago, a White
louse employe for 25 years
[John Ficklin), reported the
ollowing: "I've heard about all
;inds of crazy things . . . lights
;oing on and off, doors opening
ind closing, knocks on doors
ihen there's nobody there, Abe
.incoln wandering the halls."
Harry Truman also once told
ow he heard a knock on his
edroom door one night in 1946.
'he knock kept up, so he went
) the door. No one was there,
By L. PERRY WILBUR
but Truman could hear what she'd heard a knock at her door,
sounded like footsteps going
down the hall.
Writing to his daughter, Mar-
garet, Truman also wrote:
•"This old place cracks and pops
' all night and you can very well
Imagine that old Jackson or
Andy Johnson or some other
ghost Is walking. Why they'd
want to come back here I could
never understand. It's a nice
prison nevertheless. About
these ghosts, I'm sure they're
here and I'm not half so alarm-
ed at meeting up with any one
of them as I am at having to
meet the live nuts I have to see
But even royalty has seen the
Lincoln ghost. Queen Wilhel-
,mina of the Netherlands, dur-
ing a White House visit, told
FDR and Mrs. "Roosevelt that
answered It, and fainted when
she saw the ghost of Lincoln
Over one dozen dependable
witnesses — White House staff
employes to government offi-
cials — have seen the ghost of
John Kennedy. Even the late
Lyndon Johnson saw it. LBJ re-
portedly told a cleaning worker
he'd just seen JFK.
But the Lincoln ghost, of all
ghosts seen in the White House,
is apparently the most troubled
or restless. It's of course a well-
known fact that Lincoln, wlien
alive, once saw his own body in
a dream Jying in a casket in the
More strange happenings
have been taking place lately at
the White House address on
Pennsylvania Avenue. Staff
members have told of lights on
the second floor going on and
off mysteriously, squeaking
floors, and even wall pictures
somehow, changing their posi-
A Nixon aide even admits
today that he doesn't relish the
idea of visiting the second floor.
Soon after the Nixons moved
into the White House, this aide
went up to the second floor to be
sure all the lights were out. A
few minutes after returning
downstairs, the second-floor
lights were on again with no
explanation. "I hate to admit
it," said the aide, "bat I won't
go up to the second floor at
night unless someone is with
One thing seems certain.
Ghosts who do their wandering
in the White House obviously
prefer to haunt In style.
Volume 98-No. 37
The Faith of
"Was Abraham Lin-
coln a Christian?"
We had been en-
joying casual con-
the dinner table, a
group of us seated
together at an eve-
ning function. Some-
how the topic had
drifted to Lincoln
and to his faith. "You
hear a lot about Lin-
coln and faith,"
someone said, "but
was he really a
I have long been
drawn to this great-
est of all Americans,
drawn by his com-
plex personality and
strength of charac-
ter, his eloquence, his wit, his good-
ness, his towering accomplishments.
t But I could not easily answer that
question. What did Lincoln really be-
lieve? What sort of faith drove, sus-
tained, and comforted him? And could
that faith which, admittedly, was unor-
thodox by evangelical standards, be
described as Christian?
The question of Lincoln's personal
religious convictions is vexing for a
number of reasons. Like so many other
aspects of his character, this one re-
mains obscure first of all because of
The Rev. David Bast is pastor of Fifth Reformed
Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. All quotes
taken from Speeches and Writings by Abraham
Lincoln's reticence about himself. Lin-
coln wrote extensively and compelling-
ly about points of law or party strategy,
about political questions of sectional
or national interest, and, increasingly,
about the one question that came to
dominate all discussion— slavery. In
arguing for his positions, he articulated
clearly and compellingly the principles
which led him to those positions, espe-
cially the principle he believed to be
the foundation of the nation: that "all
men are created equal, and are en-
dowed by their Creator with certain
But Lincoln did not speak about the
deeper beliefs that led him to embrace
his political principles. His letters and
speeches contain a good many in-
sights, but almost never insights into
the deepest places of his own heart.
One can read all of Abraham Lincoln's
works and still come away feeling that
the inmost man remains a mystery.
Another reason for the difficulty in
assessing Lincoln's faith is the quality
FEBRUARY 1992 19
of paradox that runs through his reli-
gious life. Deeply devout and possess-
ing a nature inclined toward spiritual
things, Lincoln nevertheless was not
formally committed to any creed. Hav-
ing been raised on the backwoods
frontier of southern Indiana and Illi-
nois, he had very little exposure to or-
ganized religion. "I've never been to
church yet nor probably shall not be
soon," the young Lincoln wrote a
friend not long after moving to
Springfield. "I stay away because I am
conscious I should not know how to
behave myself." As an adult Lincoln
rented pews in and attended Presbyte-
rian churches in both Springfield and
Washington, but he never joined one,
although his wife and children did.
Lincoln has been described as the
most spiritual of all presidents; certain-
ly he was the most biblical, at least
with respect to his knowledge of and
love for the Scriptures. "It is the best
gift God has given to man," he said of
the Bible. "All the good the Saviour
gave to the world was communicated
through this book,.. .All things most
desirable for man's welfare, here and
hereafter, are to be found portrayed in
it." His speeches were dotted with
allusions and quotations from both
Testaments, his thinking shaped by
biblical teaching, his matchless prose
echoing the sonorous beauty of the
Authorized Version. No president made
more use of the Scriptures than Abra-
Yet he was more than once accused
of spiritual infidelity. When he ran for
Congress in 1846, Lincoln's opponent,
a Democrat and Methodist preacher
named Peter Cartwright, traveled the
district informing the voters that Lin-
coln was an unbeliever. In reply Lin-
coln published and circulated a hand-
bill that stated:
That 1 am not a member of any
Christian Church, is true; but I have
never denied the truth of the Scrip-
tures; and I have never spoken with
intentional disrespect of religion in
general, or of any denomination of
Christians in particular....! do not
think I could myself, be brought to
support a man for office, whom I
knew to be.. .[a] scoffer at religion.
Leaving the higher matter of eternal
consequences, between him and his
Maker. 1 still do not think any man
has the right thus to insult the feel-
ings, and injure the morals, of the
community in which he may live.
But notice the ambiguity in this state-
ment. Lincoln says he never denied or
attacked the Bible or Christianity, and
that he could never support anyone
who did, but he does not positively af-
firm what he believes. Is this merely
clever lawyer's language to minimize
the political damage of a serious
charge (in nineteenth-century Ameri-
ca, at least) without compromising his
intellectual integrity? Or is it the care-
ful response of a man who knows him-
self to have been wronged by the
spreading of an accusation that is un-
fair because it is untrue, but who does
not wish to make a political issue of his
Those who wish to turn to the works
of historians and other writers to learn
what Lincoln believed will find they
have a bewildering— and conflicting-
variety of views from which to choose.
Even during his lifetime Abraham Lin-
coln was the subject of myth-making.
Honest Abe the Railsplitter, who went
from log cabin to White House, was as
much image as reality; then as now,
image was often the result of good pub-
lic relations. Lincoln had come from
very humble origins and was largely
self-educated, but that was not unusual
in his time and place. The truth is, Lin-
coln was a prominent and highly suc-
cessful attorney, a speaker with a na-
tional reputation, and a brilliant and
ambitious politician, all before he be-
Following the assassination the Lin-
coln myth grew to immense propor-
tions. It is difficult to discern the truth
about the man in the multitude of
interpretations that sprang up after
his death. The martyred president was
portrayed as the model Christian, par-
ticularly by earnest Victorian clergy-
men. Some nearly deified Lincoln, de-
scribing him in Christlike terms as one
who gave his life (on Good Friday, no
less!) to save a nation. In reaction to
Lincoln's elevation to the spiritual
leader of American civil religion, Lin-
coln's old law partner William Hern-
don wrote a biography that claimed
Lincoln was a cynical agnostic, and
people have been choosing sides since.
So what did Lincoln really believe?
Was he a Christian? He was certainly
conscious of religious shortcomings.
Delivering remarks to a Presbyterian
assembly during the war, Lincoln con-
fessed, "1 sincerely wish that I was a
more devoted man than I am. Some-
times in my difficulties I have been
driven to the last resort to say God is
still my only hope. It is still all the
world to me."
His faith was non-sectarian, al-
though this is understandable given
the way denominations had treated
My wife has some relatives in the
Presbyterian and some in the Epis-
copal Churches, and therefore, wher-
ever it would tell, I was set down as
either the one or the other, whilst it
was every where contended that no
christian ought to go for me, because
I belonged to no church, and was
suspected of being a deist.
His faith was also non-dogmatic;
while Lincoln quoted Jesus and the
Old Testament often, he seems to have
been less fond of the doctrinal epistles.
But that does not mean his faith was
not real. A rare and affecting glimpse
into Lincoln's own heart is offered in
another letter, written to his step-
brother in January 1851 after receiving
news of his father's serious illness:
I sincerely hope Father may yet re-
cover his health; but at all events tell
him to remember to call upon, and
confide in, our great, and good, and
merciful Maker; who will not turn
away from him in any extremity. He
notes the fall of a sparrow, and
numbers the hairs of our heads; and
He will not forget the dying man,
who puts his trust in Him. Say to
him that.. .if it be his lot to go now,
he will soon have a joyous meeting
with many loved ones gone before;
and where the rest of us, through the
help of God, hope ere-long to join
It seems difficult not to conclude that
someone who could speak this way in
a private communication is a believer.
But Lincoln's personal faith, or his
20 THECHURCH HERALD
elationship with God, is not what is
elevant to us. Leaving aside the high-
er matter of eternal consequences be-
ween him and his Maker, it is more
mportant to consider Lincoln's faith as
t applied to issues of public life.
The spiritual testimony of the ma-
ure Lincoln is contained in his great-
est speech, the Second Inaugural Ad-
dress. This profoundest and most deep-
y moving of all American political
documents is really a sermon on a ser-
es of biblical texts. In March of 1865,
/vith the war grinding to its close, Lin-
:oln was trying to make sense of it all.
The catastrophe that had overtaken
the whole nation, North and South,
was more overwhelming than anyone
had imagined. People were struggling
to understand why it had happened,
how a good God, in whom nearly ev-
eryone on both sides still believed,
could have allowed it.
Lincoln's answer, forged out of his
own suffering, his years of anxiety and
toil, reaffirmed both the goodness and
severity of God:
The Almighty has His own purposes.
"Woe unto the world because of of-
fences! For it must needs be that
Faith and the Country's Father
George Washington was not an orthodox
Christian, as some have claimed, nor an
orthodox deist, as others have proposed. His
personal theology, based on his own under-
standing of the Bible and his reading of many
Enlightenment thinkers of his time, was most
likely broadly Unitarian, as was that of most
deists of his time. Concerning revealed reli-
gion and systematic theology, these deists
were either privately skeptical (as Washington
may have been), philosophically curious (like
Thomas Jefferson) or belligerently argumenta-
tive (like Thomas Paine). But they all believed
in God and generally in life after death. As far
as Washington was concerned, God was the
Creator of the universe, and human affairs
were guided by providence, the Almighty Be-
ing, the Great Author or the Invisible Hand
(terms often used by Washington). He highly respected the teachings of Jesus but upheld
the right of every religious group— Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews— to freedom
of worship and equality before the law, and condemned all forms of bigotry, intolerance,
discrimination, and persecution.
Most striking, after 1799 the first president became one of the most powerful symbols of
national unity and a veritable totem of America's public faith. Not only was he regarded as
the father of his country, but also as the American Moses who had led his people. God's
New Israel, out of British bondage into the Promised Land of republican America. In sermon
after sermon following his death, the clergy exalted him as the American Moses and the
savior of his people. All of this was soon translated into a thousand sacred myths which in
turn supported the unifying political superstructure of the nation's public faith.
Washington, therefore, occupied a special place in the development of America's public
religion. He gave it a voice, served as the focal point for its formation and encased his
presidency in religion by his words and example, and through his powerful personality
bestowed on the office a sacred aura. Quickly elevated to civil sainthood following his
death, he also became the Moses figure who reminded his people that they enjoyed a
common heritage and that God had chosen them as his New Israel for a new era.
Washington not only provided critical leadership as the key founder of a new nation
dedicated to republican ideals and human rights, but also formative leadership as the key
founder of the public faith of that new nation.
Source: Dictionary of Christianity in America. InterVarsity Press. 1990. Used with permission.
offences come; but woe to that man
by whom the offence cometh!" If we
shall suppose that American slavery
is one of those offences which, in
the providence of God, must needs
come, but which, having continued
through His appointed time, He now
wills to remove, and that He gives to
both North and South, this terrible
war, as the woe due to those by
whom the offence came, shall we
discern therein any departure from
those divine attributes which the be-
lievers in a Living God always as-
cribe to Him? Fondly do we hope-
fervently do we pray— that this
mighty scourge of war may speedily
pass away. Yet, if God wills that it
continue, until all the wealth piled
by the bond-man's two hundred and
fifty years of unrequited toil shall be
sunk, and until every drop of blood
drawn with the lash shall be paid by
another drawn with the sword, as
was said three thousand years ago,
so still it must be said "the judg-
ments of the Lord are true and right-
And then the well-known conclusion,
With malice toward none; with
charity for all; with firmness in the
right, as God gives us to see the
right, let us strive on to finish the
work we are in; to bind up the
nation's wounds; to care for him
who shall have borne the battle, and
for his widow, and his orphan— to do
all which may achieve and cherish a
just, and a lasting peace, among our-
selves, and with all nations.
Lincoln believed in the providence
of God, God's government over human
affairs. Lincoln believed in the holiness
of God, and the justice of God in judg-
ing sin, and in the responsibility of
people to practice the will of God in
human society. Lincoln also believed
in the mercy of God and in the need to
live out that mercy by showing love for
neighbors, even for enemies.
Whether or not he was a Christian
is, for us, an irrelevant, perhaps an
impertinent question. What is more
significant is that for the American
people in the 1860s, Lincoln's blend of
political and religious feeling assured a
broken and war-weary people that a
new society could be better than the
one before. □
FEBRUARY 1992 21
Page 14 •The Napervllle Sun Sunday, February 12,1994
James Tezak, General Manager
Tim West, Senior Managing Editor
Bob Vavra, Assistant Managing Editor
William J. Burghardt, Features Editor
Jim Kutina, Photo Editor
Stan Goff, Sports Editor
Brian Kleemann, Entertainment Editor
In the darkest hours of civil conflict, when it appeared noth-
ing earthly could hold the Union together, Abraham Lincoln
turned to the one guiding influence that had aided him so often
before — his deep faith in the power of God.
Today, as we observe the 186th anniversary of the Great
Emancipator's birth, many students and scholars of Lincoln
once again are sorting through his qualities and strengths, try-
ing to discover the source of his greatness. As they do, they will
focus on his courage, his strong moral convictions, his sense of
humor, his humility and concern for others and, of course, the
great accomplishments themselves.
But what frequently takes the background in such discussions
is the strength he gained from his complete faith in the Almighty.
As the fighting raged during the Civil War, Lincoln said: "I am
satisfied that when the Almighty wants me to do or not to do a
particular thing, he finds a way of letting me know it. I am con-
fident that it is his design to restore the Union. He will do it in
his own good time." That faith was finally rewarded after four
torturous years of conflict, and he lived to see its conclusion.
This past December brought the death of D. Elton Trueblood,
an eminent American theologian, for many years professor
at large at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. In 1973, he wrote
a book titled "Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American An-
guish" which remains one of the most enlightening studies ev-
er done of Lincoln's personal feelings and beliefs.
In that book, Dr. Trueblood revealed a Lincoln few ever think
about, an immortal leader of our country who once said and
believed: "I have felt His hand upon me in great trials." When
we look for the source of Lincoln's greatness, faith is an es-
Thus, on this weekend of special Lincoln observances, it is
worthwhile to recall some of Dr. Trueblood's insights. The 16th
president's humility, nurtured by his faith, caused him to accept
his insignificance in the eyes of his maker, but he also firmly
believed he was the tool God was using to accomplish his plan.
As a result, prayer became a daily necessity to determine
the path he should take. He prayed in time of crisis; he prayed
in time of victory. He prayed by himself and he rallied the na-
tion to prayer, for as Trueblood wrote : " He prayed for guidance,
and he prayed in gratitude."
Trueblood says Lincoln's extensive knowledge of the Bible
enabled him to develop an unusual spiritual relationship with
God. He firmly believed that God's will directs human beings,
but Lincoln also became engulfed in anguish resulting from his
struggle to determine God's will for him.
Lincoln's faith was so strong that he used prayer not to dare
try to alter the will of God, but to ask for direction and to dis-
cover partially what God's will was. His own realization that
he was but a tool in the hands of his maker nourished his hu-
mility, enabling him to appear modest, while recognizing he
had a destiny he must pursue. Coupled with that was his deeply
embedded sense of moral purpose.
In his major speeches, Lincoln relied heavily on his biblical
knowledge. The "House Divided" speech is a prime example of
Lincoln's use of the Bible in a public address. The words, "A
house divided against itself cannot stand," are closely copied
from those of St. Mark.
The style of the Gettysburg Address closely resembles that
of the Twenty-Third Psalm. Of the 265 words in the Address, 194
are one syllable. The psalm, which Lincoln could repeat from
memory, has 118 words, 92 of which are one syllable.
Abraham Lincoln was without question a complicated man,
thus the reason that scholars have devoted so much attention
not only to his accomplishments but also to his makeup as a
person. Faith was an essential element of his greatness.
With our modern materialism and sophistication, many find
it difficult to relate religion to our daily lives, but there is a les-
son in Lincoln's faith. He showed that trust in a being far
greater than himself gave him the courage to do the necessary
things that ultimately carried him to greatness. — -
Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999)
Page 1 of 7
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His guiding of the United States through its
greatest crisis and his subsequent martyrdom have caused the
shadow of the tall, sixteenth president to loom still larger. Called
"the most mythic of all American presidents" (Cohen 1989, 7),
Abraham Lincoln has long been credited by paranormalists with
supernatural powers. These include an early mirror-vision,
prophetic dreams, and spiritualistic phenomena. His ghost, some
say, even haunts the White House. -
In the Looking Glass
Many people have portrayed Lincoln as a man given to belief in
omens-particularly those relating to his assassination. An incident
often cited in this regard occurred at his home in Springfield,
Illinois. Lincoln related it to a few friends and associates, including
Noah Brooks in 1864. Brooks shared it with the readers of Harper's
New Monthly Magazine the following July-three months after
Lincoln's death-recounting the president's story "as nearly as
possible in his own words":
It was just after my election in 1 860. ... I was well tired out, and
went home to rest, throwing myself down on a lounge in my
chamber. Opposite where I lay was a bureau, with a swinging-
glass upon it-jand here he got up and placed furniture to illustrate
the position]-and, looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected,
nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and
distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches
from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered, perhaps startled,
and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished. On
lying down again I saw it a second time-plainer, if possible, than
before; and then 1 noticed that one of the faces was a little paler,
say five shades, than the other. I got up and the thing melted
away, and I went off and, in the excitement of the hour, forgot all
about it-nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while
come up, and give me a little pang, as though something
uncomfortable had happened. When I went home I told my wife
about it, and a few days after I tried the experiment again, when
[with a laugh], sure enough, the thing came again; but I never
succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once
tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was worried
about it somewhat. She thought it was "a sign" that I was to be
elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of
the faces was an omen that 1 should not see life through the last
term. (Brooks 1 865, 224-225)
The same story was told by Ward Hill Lamon in his book,
Recollection s of Abraham Lincoln . Lamon was a friend of Lincoln's,
Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999)
Page 2 of 7
International Network of
a fearless man who accompanied him to Washington for his
protection, being given the special title, Marshal of the District of
Columbia. In discussing the matter of the double image in the
mirror, Lamon stated: "Mr. Lincoln more than once told me that he
could not explain this phenomenon" and "that he had tried to
reproduce the double reflection at the Executive Mansion, but
without success." In Lamon's account it was not Mrs. Lincoln but
the president himself who thought the "ghostly" image foretold
"that death would overtake him" before the end of his second term
(Lamon 1995, 111-112).
In recent years, paranormalists have gotten hold of Lincoln's
anecdote and offered their own interpretations. Hans Holzer states
that "What the President saw was a brief 'out of the body
experience,' or astral projection," meaning "that the bonds
between conscious mind and the unconscious are temporarily
loosened and that the inner or true self has quickly slipped
out" (Holzer 1995, 65).
Such an explanation utterly fails to fit the evidence. Lincoln did not
describe an out-of-body experience-a feeling of being outside
one's physical self-but, according to Brooks (1865, 225), "The
President, with his usual good sense, saw nothing in all this but an
The nature of this optical illusion can be deduced from the
circumstances. The double image was of Lincoln's face only, could
be seen in a particular mirror but not others, and vanished and
reappeared with respect to a certain vantage point. Taken
together, these details are corroborative evidence that the mirror
was the cause. An ordinary mirror can produce a slight double-
image effect due to light reflecting off the front of the glass as well
as off the silvering on the back. In modern mirrors this is usually
not noticeable, and the shift in the image is slight in any event.
But in the case of old mirrors, whose glass plates "were generally
imperfect" (Cescinsky 1931), a distinct double image might be
produced, like that shown in Figure 1. (Unfortunately, the actual
mirror-topped bureau Lincoln described is no longer to be found at
the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, much of the furniture
having been dispersed in earlier years [Suits 1998].)
Figure 1. Double image of author (and of photographer Rob
McElroy) reproduces a curious effect experienced by
Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999)
Page 3 of 7
Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and thought by Mrs. Lincoln to be
Dreams of Death
The mirror incident sets the stage for claims of even more
emphatically premonitory experiences. These were dreams Lincoln
reportedly had that foretold dramatic events. One he related to his
cabinet on April 14, 1865. The previous night he had dreamed he
was in some mysterious boat, he said, "sailing toward a dark and
indefinite shore." In another version it was of "a ship sailing
rapidly" (Lewis 1973, 290). When Lincoln was assassinated only
hours later, the dream was seen as weirdly prophetic. The story
grew in the retellings which spread, says Lloyd Lewis in Myt hs
After Lincoln (1973, 291) "around the world."
In fact, Lincoln had not thought the dream presaged his death. He
had actually mentioned it in reply to General Grant, his guest that
Good Friday afternoon, who had expressed worries about General
Sherman's fate in North Carolina. Lincoln felt that Sherman would
be victorious because, he said, the dream had often come to him
prior to significant events in the war. According to Lewis (1973,
290): "For a President of the United States, in a time like the Civil
War, to dream that he was sailing rapidly to an unseen shore was
certainly not remarkable. Most of his waking hours, across four
years, were spent in wondering where the Ship of State was
Lincoln supposedly described an even more ominous dream to Mrs.
Lincoln, not long before his assassination, then again to Ward Hill
Lamon (1895, 115-116) who reconstructed Lincoln's words as
About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for
important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in
bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to
dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I
heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I
thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence
was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were
invisible. . . . Determined to find the cause of a state of things so
mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until 1 arrived at the East
Room, which I entered. There 1 met with a sickening surprise.
Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in
funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were
acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing
mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others
weeping pitifully. "Who is dead in the White House?" I
demanded of one of the soldiers. "The President," was his answer;
"he was killed by an assassin!" Then came a loud burst of grief
from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream. I slept no more
that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been
strangely annoyed by it ever since.
Lamon's account may be true, although he has been criticized for
having "fed the fire of superstition that people were kindling about
the name of Lincoln" (Lewis 1973, 294). In fact, however, Lamon
had added a sequel to the story which is invariably ignored:
Once the President alluded to this terrible dream with some show
of playful humor. "Hill." said he, "your apprehension of harm to
Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999)
Page 4 of 7
me from some hidden enemy is downright foolishness. For a long
time yon have been trying to keep somebody-the Lord knows
who- from killing me. Don't you see how it will turn out? In this
dream it was not me, but some other fellow, that was killed. It
seems that this ghostly assassin tried his hand on some one
else."(Lamon 1895. 1 16- 117)
In any event, that Lincoln should have dreamed of assassination-
even his own-can scarcely be termed remarkable. Prior to his first
inauguration in 1861, Pinkerton detectives had smuggled Lincoln
into Washington at night to avoid a change of trains in Baltimore
where an assassination plot had been uncovered (Neely 1982, 16-
17). Lincoln had subsequently "received untold number of death
threats" (St. George 1990, 66), and on one occasion had a hole
shot through his top hat by a would-be assassin (Neely 1982,
Among the Spirits
Lamon (1895, 120) insisted that Lincoln "was no dabbler in
divination-astrology, horoscopy, prophecy, ghostly lore, or
witcheries of any sort." Yet soon after his death spiritualists sought
to use Lincoln to give respectability to their practices by citing the
occasions he had permitted seances in the White House, as well as
to claim contact with his own departed spirit. The extent of
Lincoln's involvement with spiritualism has been much debated.
Actually, it was Mrs. Lincoln who was involved with spiritualists.
She turned to them in her bereavement over the death of Willie,
the Lincolns' beloved eleven-year-old son who died of "bilious
fever" in 1862. One such spiritualist medium was Henrietta
"Nettie" Colburn (1841-1892). Mary Todd Lincoln met her at a
"circle" or seance at the Georgetown home of Cranstoun Laurie,
chief clerk of the post office in Washington. On one occasion, a
seance with Nettie was being held in the White House's Red Parlor
when the president stumbled upon the group and watched with
curiosity. Another time he accompanied Mary to a seance at the
Lauries' home. At least one biographer has suggested that
Lincoln's marginal involvement may have stemmed from a desire
"to protect his gullible wife" (Temple 1995, 199).
That was exactly what Lincoln did with regard to a trickster named
Charles J. Colchester. Styling himself "Lord Colchester," he
conducted seances wherein "spirit rappings" were produced. A
concerned Lincoln asked Dr. Joseph Henry (1797-1878), the
secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, for his advice about
Colchester, whereupon Dr. Henry invited the medium to give a
demonstration at his office. The scientist determined that the
sounds came from Colchester and he suspected trickery. Later,
Noah Brooks caught the medium cheating and warned Colchester
not to return to the Executive Mansion (Temple 1995, 200).
Lincoln himself was not interested in seances, but, according to
Lloyd Lewis's Myths After Lincoln (1973, 301), "In these dark
hocus-pocuses Mrs. Lincoln found comfort, and Lincoln let them go
on for a time, careless of whether the intellectuals of the capital
thought him addle-pated or no."
It is ironic that Lincoln did not believe in spiritualism, since his
ghost is now reportedly so active. Although his Springfield home is
decidedly unhaunted, according to curator Linda Suits (1998), who
Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1 999)
Page 5 of 7
says neither she nor anyone she knows has had a ghostly
encounter there, other places compete for attention. There have
been numerous reported sightings of Lincoln's ghost at his tomb in
Springfield as well as at Fort Monroe in Virginia and, in
Washington, at both the White House and Ford's Theater (where
Lincoln was assassinated) (Cohen 1989, 11; Winer and Osborn
1979, 125; Jones 1996, 15).
Understandably, perhaps, it is the White House that seems to
receive the most attention-especially the "Lincoln
Bedroom" (which, in Lincoln's time, was actually his office). The
notion that his ghost frequents the stately rooms and corridors
doubtless began with Mrs. Lincoln's post-assassination seances
and it was probably given impetus by a figurative remark made by
President Theodore Roosevelt (who served from 1901-1909): "I
think of Lincoln, shambling, homely, with his strong, sad, deeply-
furrowed face, all the time. I see him in the different rooms and in
the halls" (St. George 1990, 84). Such feelings are still common
and may trigger sightings among imaginative people and those
predisposed to see ghosts. The first person to report actually
seeing Lincoln's ghost was Grace Coolidge (First Lady from 1923 to
1929), who saw his tall figure looking out an Oval Office window
(Scott and Norman 1991, 74; Cohen 1989, 10). During her tenure,
guests were lodged in the "Lincoln bedroom" and "Every newcomer
was informed of the legend that when the great light over the front
door was dimmed for the night the ghost of Abraham Lincoln was
supposed to pace silently to and fro on the North Porch" (Ross
Among subsequent Lincoln sightings was one by Queen Wilhelmina
of the Netherlands (who had a prior interest in spiritualism). She
was a guest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt when she heard a
knock during the night at her bedroom door. Opening it, the
drowsy queen saw the figure of Abraham Lincoln looking down at
her, causing her to swoon (Ronan 1974, 40; Cohen 1989, 10).
Religious leader Norman Vincent Peale claimed that a prominent
actor (whom he would not name) had been a White House guest
when he awoke to Lincoln's voice pleading for help. The actor sat
up to see "the lanky form of Lincoln prostrate on the floor in
prayer, arms outstretched with fingers digging into the
carpet" (Winer and Osborn 1979, 135). And President Reagan's
daughter Maureen said she had occasionally seen Lincoln's ghost-
"an aura, sometimes red, sometimes orange"-during the night. So
had her husband Dennis Revell (Caroli 1992, 39).
These examples are typical of many ghost sightings that are due
to common "waking dreams," an experience that occurs when
someone is just going to sleep or waking up and perceives ghosts,
lights, or other strange imagery (Nickell 1995, 41, 46). Other
apparitions are most likely to be seen when one is tired,
daydreaming, performing routine chores, or is otherwise in a
reverie or dissociative state (see e.g., Mackenzie 1982). This may
help explain sightings such as one by Eleanor Roosevelt's
secretary, who passed by the Lincoln Bedroom one day and was
frightened to see the ghostly president sitting on the bed and
pulling on his boots (Alexander 1998, 43; Jones 1996, 8).
Once the notion of a ghost is affixed to a place, almost anything-
an unexplained noise, mechanical malfunction, misplaced object,
or the like-can be added to the lore. For example, on one of my
appearances on "The Michael Reagan Show," Mike told me an
anecdote about his father and their dog, Rex. According to
President Reagan, when passing the Lincoln Bedroom Rex would
Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999)
Page 6 of 7
often bark but would refuse to enter the room (Reagan 1998; see
also Caroli 1992, 39, and Alexander 1998, 45). Mike related the
story as more of a novelty than as proof of a supernatural
occurrence. (President Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, once asked
her father if he had ever seen Lincoln's ghost. "'No,' my father
answered-a bit sadly, I thought. 'I haven't seen him yet. But I do
believe he's here'" [Davis 1995].) Neither the Bushes nor, as far as
they could tell, their dog Millie ever saw the ghost of Lincoln, or
indeed any of the other historical specters who are occasionally
reported (Alexander 1998, 45).
Not all of the reports of Lincoln's ghost, however, have featured
apparitions. In earlier times there were frequent reports of sounds
that were variously interpreted, some describing them as heavy
footfalls (Cohen 1989, 10; Jones 1996, 8), others as knockings at
the door, with Lincoln's ghost typically being thought responsible.
Not only Queen Wilhelmina but also "Presidents from Theodore
Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman all said they heard
mysterious rappings, often at their bedroom doors" (Scott and
Norman 1991, 74). However, ghosthunter Hans Holzer (1995, 70)
concedes: "President Truman, a skeptic, decided that the noises
had to be due to 'natural' causes, such as the dangerous settling of
the floors. He ordered the White House completely rebuilt, and
perhaps this was a good thing: It would surely have collapsed soon
after, according to the architect, General Edgerton."
For all his greatness Abraham Lincoln was of course human.
Among his foibles were a tendency to melancholy, a sense of
fatalism, and a touch of superstition from his frontier upbringing.
However, as this investigation demonstrates, neither his life nor
his death offers proof of paranormal or supernatural occurrences-
not his very human apprehensions of mortality, not his wife's sad
seduction into spiritualism, and not the evidence, even if
expressed as anecdotes of ghostly apparitions, that his great
legacy lives on.
I am grateful to S. L. Carson, Silver Spring, Maryland, for his
helpful comments, and to Old as the Hills Antiques (at Kelly's
Antique Market), Clarence, N.Y., for use of the vintage mirror.
1. Among other implicitly paranormal claims relating to Lincoln
are the "mysterious coincidences" that are often claimed
between him and President John F. Kennedy. See Martin
Gardner, The Magic Numbers of Dr. Mat rix (Buffalo:
Prometheus, 1985) and Bruce Martin, "Coinci dence:
Remarkable or Random? " Skeptical Inquirer 22(5)
(September/October 1998): 23-28.
• Alexander, John. 1998. Ghosts: Was hington Rev isited . Atglen,
Pa.: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
• Brooks, Noah. "Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln,"
Harper's New Monthly Magazine. July, 222-226.
• Caroli, Betty Boyd. 1992. Inside the W hite House. New York:
Lincoln and the Paranormal; Investigative Files (Skeptical Inquirer May 1999)
Page 7 of 7
Cescinsky, Herbert. 1931. Th e G entle Art of Faking Furniture.
Reprinted New York: Dover, 1967, 135.
Cohen, Daniel. 1989. The Encyclop edia of Ghosts . New York:
Davis, Patti. 1995. Angels Don't Die. New York: HarperCollins,
Holzer, Hans. Gh osts, Hauntings an d Possessions: The Best of
Hans Holzer , ed. by Raymond Buckland. 1995. St. Paul, Minn.:
Jones, Merlin. 1996. Haunted Places. Boca Raton, Fla.: Globe
Lamon, Ward Hill. 1895. R ecollecti o ns of Abraham Lincoln
1847-1865. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Co.
Lewis, Lloyd. 1973. Myths After Lincoln . Gloucester, Mass.:
Mackenzie, Andrew. 1982. Hauntings and Apparitions . London:
Neely, Mark E., Jr. 1982. The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia .
New York: Da Capo.
Nickell, Joe. 1995. Entities: Angels, Spirits, Demons, and Other
Alien Beings . Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.
Reagan, Michael. 1998. "The Michael Reagan Show," October
Ronan, Margaret. 1974. Strange Unsolved Mysteries . New
York: Scholastic Book Services.
Ross, Ishbel. 1962. Grace Coolidge and Her Era . New York:
Dodd, Mead and Co.
Scott, Beth, and Michael Norman. 1991. Haunted Heartland .
New York: Dorset Press.
St. George, Judith. 1990. The White House: Cornerstone of a
Nation . New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
Suits, Linda Norbut (curator, Lincoln Home, Springfield). 1998.
Interview by author.
Temple, Wayne C. 1995. Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to
Prophet . Mahomet, III.: Mayhaven Publishing.
Winer, Richard, and Nancy Osborn. 1979. Haunted Houses .
New York: Bantam Books.
About the Author
Joe Nickell, CSICOP's Senior Research Fellow, is a collector of
Abraham Lincoln memorabilia. His investigative articles relating to
the sixteenth president have appeared in Lincoln Herald and The
Journal of Forensic Identification.
• Search CSICOP: Investigative Files
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The American Thinker Page 1 of 2
THE AMERICAN THINKER
October 9th, 2005
Much has been made of President George W. Bush's faith and devotion to religion since he declared with simple
eloquence that his personal hero was "Christ" during a Republican primary debate in 2000. The mainstream media
lampooned and criticized the President after author Bob Woodward revealed on 60 Minutes last year that President
Bush said he sought "a higher power" than his former-President father in the lonely moments before committing
United States forces into Iraq in 2003.
In the current atmosphere of conventional wisdom mocking nearly every form of Judeo-Christian religion and
accusing public officials who are public about their religious beliefs of breaching the intent of the Founders, it is
important to again look to the past and the thoughts and meditations on the subject of previous Presidents and leaders.
Perspective is needed, especially when it relates to the fanatical hatred of President Bush and the misunderstanding
many have about his faith.
A study on the religious principles and leadership of Abraham Lincoln, written nearly 60 years ago and just recently
published by the late author's son, helps illuminate the thoughts and actions of the sixteenth President during one of
the most trying times in our nation's history and helps bring the badly-needed perspective to bear today.
Dr. G. George Fox wrote Abraham Lincoln 's Faith Based Leadership in 1959. Dr. Fox, who was also a rabbi, desired
to show that President Lincoln was indeed "a believer" and used religion and religious belief in his presidency, while
also drawing on Dr. Fox's own scholarship to further examine the President's beliefs.
One of the unique aspects of Dr. Fox's work is that it intentionally looked beyond the self-imposed restrictions on
celebrated volumes of the day such as The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, which deemed anecdotal evidence
of the content of President Lincoln's religious life as incomplete and unworthy of inclusion of any published portrait
of the President. Dr. Fox utilized early "utterances, memoirs, reminiscences and interviews" that many scholars to
that point hastily discarded, but are prized by contemporary historians. This was a unique method when Dr. Fox first
wrote his work, and at times one has to remember that indeed the manuscript was written decades ago, lest the reader
dismiss the information within as common knowledge.
Dr. Fox points to conversations Lincoln had with people who in turn jotted down their remembrances. Dr. Fox, for
example, points out a conversation President Lincoln had with Gen. Sickles regarding prayer and the battles at
Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Dr. Fox argues that such conversations are absent from the mainstream studies of Lincoln
such as The Collected Works, but "vital" in understanding Lincoln's religion and his approach during wartime.
Readers who recall with a laugh the carefully-crafted of image of Bill and Hillary Clinton rolling up to church, the
President carrying a Bible the size of a law school book will enjoy Dr. Fox's juxtaposition of President Lincoln
skepticism of "pious displays" of religious devotion while detailing his stone-cold knowledge of the Bible and its
teachings is craftily executed.
Among others with similar thoughts on the matter of faith, Dr. Fox cites Henry Whitney's observations of Lincoln
driving "right straight to the essence and marrow of the subject." President Lincoln's reliance on the private act of
prayer is also examined, relating to his "sublime faith" and certainty that the Lord stood on the side of right and
Lincoln's anxiety that he was on the Lord's side. Dr. Fox cites reminiscence by Jesse Fell of Bloomington, Illinois,
that follows in part:
"He never attached himself to any religious society whatsoever. His religious views were eminently practical,
http://www.americanthinker.com/articles print.php?article id=4891 10/13/2005
The American Thinker Page 2 of 2
and are summed up as I think in these two propositions: The Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
He fully believed in a superintending and overruling Providence, that guides and control the operations of the
world; but maintained that law and order, and not their violation of suspension, are the appointed means by
which this providence was exercised."
Perhaps the most fascinating and unique discussion in this book is Dr. Fox's meditations on President Lincoln and the
Biblical prophets. Dr. Fox posits that President Lincoln's knowledge of the ethical teachings of the prophets was
"phenomenal." Putting his rabbinical studies and knowledge to great use, Dr. Fox profiles "Lincoln's Prophets," who
included Moses, Jesus, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Looking at various state papers of the Lincoln administration,
Dr. Fox demonstrates that two proclamations for a Fast Day papers echo the burdens of Jeremiah and an excerpt from
Ezekiel, respectively. Dr. Fox also shows how the Thanksgiving message of 1864 reads like Psalms 9 and 66. As
Lincoln wrote in part:
It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care
against unfriendly designs from abroad, and vouchsafing us unto in His mercy, many and signal victories over
the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens
in their homes, as our soldiers in their camps, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health. He has
largely augmented our free population by emancipation and immigration, while he has opened to us new
sources of wealth, and had crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry, with
abundant rewards. Moreover he has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude,
courage and resolution, sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our
adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate
and happy deliverance from all our dangers and affiliations.
Imagine if George W. Bush said that today.
Dr. Fox finally argues that Abraham Lincoln was a modern-day Jeremiah, who both lived in times of great peril and
died for their causes. Dr. Fox's use of state papers, anecdotal remembrances and the words of the Bible and Prophets
is well-organized. Again, that this work was completed in 1959 yet still holds much value and perspective today is a
testament to the craftsmanship and foresight of G. George Fox. In his introduction to the book, Dr. Fox wrote that he
wished his writing "to have contributed some light to the study of the religion of Abraham Lincoln." His writing did
so - and more.
Matt May is a freelance writer and can be reached at matthewtmay(a)yahoo. com; his website is here.
http://www.americanthinker.com/articles print.php?article id=4891 1 0/1 3/2005
venient to have a
>r for all that gar-
te for the privilege
ator. The region of
as the highest pro-
s in favor of the
the honor of hav-
ame that letters to
nnot be edited for
rly for accuracy
I suppose I am
o believe that all
,d bias when they
;ally to the recent
• writer states, "...
ith chlorine from
ne tanks, will also
chemical that will
nt to the reclaimed
aps she will tell us
n be dangerous. But
it, will she please tell
of the chemical which
i the salt content of the
water? And would she
,e amount of the increase?
esearch chemist w<th more
years of experience, I do not
any such chemical is used in
clamation plan for the city If
jvill provide a name for the
nical to be used, I would be hap-
to look for it in my library and
port any finding, with references,
/ith regard to use, toxicity and other
pertinent information which may
assist them in a non-hysterical as-
sessment of the dual water system.
North Fort Myers
tians how selfish and irrational most
of their prayers really are; especial-
ly during war time.
y WILLIAM R. CABLE
No taxes for religion
In a Feb. 24 column, Homer Pyle
wrote, "The First Amendment has
been turned upside down" and that
the sole purpose of the "establish-
ment" and "free exercise" clauses
was "to prohibit government interfe-
rence in religious freedom, either by
establishing a religion or by forbid-
ding religious exercises." Then he
complained because "that same 'es
tablishment* clause is used to sep
rate religion from government."
Now that we've heard from -
Opinion page editor, Mr. Pyle,
listen to the Supreme Court dec
in the 1947 Everson case. It sta
part that no government bo<'
"pass laws which aid one r
aid all religions, or prefer c
gion over another," and tha<
in any amount, large or sma
levied to support any religi
ities or institutions. In the
Jefferson, the clause aga
lishment of religion by '
tended to erect a "wall o
between church and stat
Homer Pyle echoe
thinking of fundamen
world absolutists whc
man's tax dollars to •
man's religion. Thi5
it's horribly wrong?
not blinded by reli
I was amused at Homer Pyle's
propaganda piece on the religion of
Although he did not say so, I was
left with the impression, and I am
sure others were, that he was at-
tempting to associate Mr. Lmcoln
with Christianity. At least, he failed
to tell his readers that Lincoln was a
deist and did not believe in the Jew-
ish-Christian God of the Bible who in
a fit of anger drowned all His chil-
dren but eight, upheld slavery, polyg-
amy, religious persecution and wars
Since space is limited in the Mail-
bag, I would surest that Mr. Pyle
read from Ingersoli's works, Volume
12, pages 247 through 255.
Mr Pyle should publish in tne
News-Press Mark Twain's "The War
Prayer." It might help to show Chris-